Lifestyle & Belief

First Boeing 787 Dreamliner takes to the skies three months after mass grounding by FAA over safety concerns


Boeing employees work on a Boeing 787 Dreamliner for United Airlines on September 25, 2011 in Everett, Washington.


Stephen Brashear

The first Boeing 787 Dreamliner flown by a US airline taken to the skies since a mass grounding by safety authorities earlier this year.

United Airlines "Flight 1" landed safely at Chicago at 11 a.m. local time on Monday with Boeing Chief Executive W. James McNerney Jr. and Jeff Smisek, chief executive of United Continental Holdings, on board.

United is the only American carrier to fly the 787 Dreamliner, which was banned from US airspace the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) on Jan. 16 after incidents involving overheating batteries, including a fire.

The incidents occurred aboard two 787s operated by Japanese airlines.

According to the Los Angeles Times, the plane has undergone testing and Boeing has redesigned elements of the plane.

The Christian Science Monitor quoted Richard Aboulafia, vice president of analysis at the aerospace analysis firm Teal Group, as saying in an interview:

"The chemistry of these batteries is changing. They can be made better. They still offer a powerful and economic solution. It’s just a question of getting the chemistry right and getting the system right."

The FAA gave the go-ahead for a return to service in the US last month, after a three-month grounding that had cost the company millions of dollars.

Among the seven carriers flying Dreamliners, Qatar Airways, Air India and Ethiopian Airlines Enterprise had already returned the jet to service.

LOT Polish Airlines, Japan Airlines, ANA and Latam Airlines Group were among those who said they soon would.

The Wall Street Journal cited an internal Boeing report as saying that during the 15 months before burning batteries grounded all 787s, "the global fleet of 50 planes experienced an array of problems unrelated to batteries resulting in delays, cancelations and diversions estimated to cost airlines more than $3 million."

Despite, these issues, Boeing last month said it was boosting the production rate of the airliner and would be making 10 a month by the end of the year, up from the seven.

United, meantime, has confirmed its plan to launch its Denver-Tokyo route with 787 service on June 10.

It will also begin 787 service in the coming months on routes including Houston-London, Los Angeles-Tokyo, Los Angeles-Shanghai and Houston-Lagos.